When Westhampton Beach resident Lisa Jordan heard the phone ringing just after midnight on Sunday, her first thought was that something had happened to her oldest son, Andrew, studying history at Iona College.
“I was scared,” she said.
Her son was calling to tell her that history was unfolding — Osama bin Laden, the terrorist who masterminded the Sept. 11 tragedy that left her a widow and her four children fatherless, was dead.
He said, "Mom, they killed Osama bin Laden," she said. “He wanted me to wake the kids up and tell them. I turned on the TV and people were going crazy.”
Jordan, who gave birth to her fourth baby, Sean, just days after 9/11, is fearful other acts of terrorism are still a very real threat.
“I think someone is going to take his place,” she said. “Someone is waiting in the wings. “This is great – but what’s going to happen now?”
Jordan says her youngest son will turn 10 years old this year, the same month as the world remembers the tenth anniversary of the day the Twin Towers collapsed. The days and months after the loss of her husband Andrew, a firefighter with Division 15, Battalion 38, serving as a member of Ladder Company 132, known as “The Eye of the Storm," were filled with grief, pain, and courage, as Jordan carried on, raising her children alone.
Before Sept. 11, Andrew Jordan was a beloved figure to his children and their friends, visiting the classroom at the Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School to share stories and let the students try on his firefighter boots and helmet.
Jordan’s youngest baby, born after his mother had been forced to hear the unbearable, never met his father, but has an avid interest in the military, she said. He also spoke at a Westhampton school board meeting last week in favor of a moment of silence during the school day to remember Sept. 11 and Pearl Harbor.
Jordan has long advocated for local school districts to take a moment of silence to mark the solemn days.
“Last year on Sept. 11, Westhampton Beach did nothing in school at all. They can announce football games – why couldn’t they say something? What does it take, a minute?” she said.
The district told Jordan the flag was lowered in memory, but Jordan believes children should be taught so they understand the true meaning of what transpired on such dark days in history.
“If you don’t remember the past, these things can happen again in the future,” she said.
The news of bin Laden’s death sparked a firestorm of emotions for Jordan, who says she speaks freely of Sept. 11 with her four children – and fills their hearts with memories of the father who loved them.
As a mother, watching her children’s pain has been soul shattering, she said,“My son, Matt, used to say he wanted to join the Marines, that he wanted to go into the hills and get bin Laden. It hurt me to think that he was a five-year-old boy, and he wanted to kill somebody.”
When she heard her husband had died – he wasn’t even slated to work that day; he had traded shifts with a friend – Jordan said she was furious.
“I was angry at bin Laden, angry at a lot of things. Why couldn’t we have stopped this from happening? Why didn’t people stop them from going through security?” And, she added, seeing bin Laden’s face plastered on news reports for years opened aching wounds and hearts ravaged by grief.
Others, such as East Quogue resident Tommy Corrigan, worked on a terrorist task force aimed at catching criminals such as bin Laden and bringing them back for prosecution. Corrigan said he was thrilled at bin Laden’s death.
“We knew about bin Laden in beginning, during the infancy stages, and saw how heinous he was. Now that he’s gone, I’m so happy,” he said.
Killing bin Laden, Jordan said, “was a huge step. It took nine and a half years to get him. Thank God they did. I didn’t think they were ever going to get him. Justice has been done.”
Hopefully, Jordan said, “we will be able to bring home some of the soldiers. We can’t afford this war anymore.”
But most important, Jordan said, the memory of 9/11 must be kept alive. “Everything in the world changed after Sept. 11,” she said. “You can’t let it be forgotten. If we do, it will just happen again.”